Denver Broncos running back Justin Forsett runs through the tackles of Oakland Raiders safety Keith McGill II, left, and cornerback TJ Carrie for a 65-yard run to the Oakland 12-yard line during the second quarter on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver. The Broncos won, 24-6. (Christian Murdock/Colorado Springs Gazette/TNS)

Raiders come up small in mile high letdown

You find out a lot about a team when the stakes are highest. Even more when it faces adversity.

Hoo boy, did we ever find out a lot about the Raiders on Sunday.

In their biggest game of the season, the AFC West title and first-round playoff bye on the line, the Raiders stunk it up against the Broncos in Denver, stunk it up but good. The final score was 24-6, but don’t believe it. It was a lot worse.

The excuse-makers would say that the Raiders were down to third-string rookie quarterback Connor Cook in the end, and they would be correct. But let’s not forget that the Broncos started a rookie of their own in Trevor Siemian even if he didn’t play like one. And that the homies had zilch to play for after their own playoff hopes were dashed one week earlier.

Besides, whose fault was it that Cook was forced into duty after Matt McGloin went down with a Crick in his neck? As in Jared Crick, the defensive end who blew past tackle Donald Penn to deliver two pancake hits that left McGloin and his left shoulder in a bad way.

As you might recall, this was the same Penn who allowed his man to bust the leg of quarterback Derek Carr and the Raiders’ season on one fateful play only a week earlier.

Even before McGloin left the game in the third period, the offense was a wreck. An ultra conservative game plan did him no favors early in the game, and on his few chances down the field, he repeatedly overthrew receivers. Cook fared as well as could be expected in his pro debut — 14 completions, 150 yards, one touchdown, one interception — but he made the expected rookie mistakes.

If ever Raiders needed their defense to step up in a big way, this was the one.

(Insert laugh track here.)

On the first drive of the game, the Broncos marched 84 yards on 11 plays and take a 7-0 lead. In what had to be some sort of record, coach Ray Norton Jr.’s spiritless bunch didn’t touch the ball-carrier on any of the three touchdowns, 56 yards in all.

By halftime, the only hope for Raiders Nation was that the Kansas City Chiefs would blow their chance against the Chargers in San Diego. Didn’t happen. The Chiefs took care of business, 37-27, and the AFC West crown and No. 2 playoff seed was theirs.

Instead of much-needed bye in the first round, the 12-4 Raiders will head to Houston to meet a 9-7 Texans’ team with a similar problem. The Texans lost quarterback Tom Savage to a concussion on Sunday, which left the beleaguered Brock Osweiler at the controls. Whether the Raiders counter with McGloin, Cook or Daryle (The Mad Bomber) Lamonica won’t be known for a few days.

In the big picture, though, it won’t matter. The 2016 Raiders are history in more ways than one.

SECONDARY IS PRIMARY: General Reggie McKenzie spent a lot of money on the porous secondary last off-season, but on too many occasions, one would never know it.

Cornerback Glen Amerson was badder than bad in the first quarter, when he missed two tackles, grabbed a facemark on third-and-3 for a first down and committed a pass interference penalty that set up a touchdown two plays later.

But Balls’ favorite play was the 64-yarder on which old man Justin Forsett turned cornerback TJ Carrie and safety Keith McGill into turnstiles in the same quarter.

So, yeah, McKenzie should be prepared to spend a lot of money on the secondary next summer, too.

SAME OLD, SAME OLD: Wait, there was something the Raiders did well — commit penalties. Lots of penalties.

The Raiders had more penalty yardage (90) than yards from scrimmage (50) in the first half. They were guilty of four walk-offs in the first 11 minutes alone.

The Raiders were so efficient in this area, they committed a penalty that lasted about 12 minutes. Linebacker Khalil Mack was flagged for unnecessary roughness on the final play of the first half, which was enforced at the start of the third quarter.

Forget Pride and Poise. Embarrassment and Undiscipline was more like it.

PUNKNESS AS USUAL: The Broncos weren’t exactly Lady Byng Award candidates themselves.

In the first period, Broncos cornerback Dweeb, er, Aquib Talib grabbed wide receiver Michael Crabtree’s chain and ripped it off his neck. Why any player would wear bling on the field beats Balls, but the stunt warranted a penalty just the same.

If course, if the referees flagged every punk move in this league, the games would last four hours at least.

HEY, LOOK …: Amari Cooper caught a touchdown pass!

WHERE’S BLACKJACK?: When Blackjack Del Rio was head coach earlier in the season, the Raiders were at their best. But that guy has been replaced by Jack Del Rio, sorry to report.

In the final minute before halftime, his team 17 points behind, Del Rio elected not to call time-outs even though the Broncos were pinned deep in their end. Instead, the coach just shook his head on the sidelines like the rest of us while they ran out the clock.

FUN FACT OF THE DAY:
Only Norm Van Brocklin coached more games (173) without a division title than Del Rio in league history.

SO LONG, EVERYBODY: That big bang you heard the last 17 weeks was Sunday Night Football television ratings falling into the dumpster.

The regular season was so void of quality and drama, so full of pompous, hey-look-at-me athletes who grossly misjudged their importance, CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory” supplanted SNF as the top-rated, prime-time show. The last time that happened five years ago, the 49ers were an NFL team.

Or to put it another way, boys and girls, the NFL’s showcase event lost 3 million viewers in one year.

And get this: TV ratings were so lousy, advertisers were given commercials at no charge to make up the difference.

According to Advertising Age, nearly 20 percent of CBS and NBC ad inventory was on the comp. The only reason Fox wasn’t in the same boat was because it rammed the first-place Dallas Cowboys down our eyeballs on prime time so often.

The plunge may be more than a speed bump. The more unbearable the players and more unwatchable the games, the better PBA Bowling looks all the time.

DREAM OFFENSE:
Less than three weeks after a spit-faced Michael Floyd was arrested with a .217 blood alcohol content, way more than Arizona law allows, the loser caught his first touchdown pass with the New England Patriots #boycottNFL on Sunday.

So, if Aaron Hernandez gets paroled soon — the guy was in the NFL once, right? — Team Teflon will become the first to put a cheater (Tom Brady), a thug (LaGarrette Blount), a drunk and a mass murderer on the field at the same time.

YOUR TURN: “Although I agree with you 100 percent about the signing of Michael Floyd, you are being incredibly self-righteous and blind. If ever there were franchises that catered to and welcomed ‘damaged’ souls, look no farther than the 49ers and Raiders. They are among the worst offenders in a league where even the best teams of the lot are still pathetically disingenuous and without moral fiber.” — Jerry Levine, San Francisco

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